If you are a local business looking to ramp up your online marketing campaign, the following strategies will help you get ahead of competitors in your region by putting your business in front of targeted online visitors in both local search and social media.
1. Optimize your website for local search.
Your first goal should be to optimize your own website for local search, and don’t worry – there are only a few minor changes you need to get started. These include the following.
- Place your local street address and phone number on every page of your website. If you do nothing else with your website in terms of local search optimization, make sure you do this. It not only helps with customer usability so they don’t have to hunt down your address, but it tells search engines that you are a local business. Also, be sure your address and phone number are in text format and not in an image – search engines can’t read images.
- Create a contact us page with all of your local information. It’s not enough to just have the information on each page. Having a good contact us page which includes your business’ photo (such as the outside or inside of the building), street address, phone number, fax number, contact form, email address, and a map (see these directions on how to embed a Google map on your website) will help customers find you easily and add more strength to your local listing.
- If you have more than one location, create a page on your website for each location. These pages don’t have to be too complex and can just include the same items as listed above – like a contact page for each location.
- Create a KML location file. Want to get even more advanced into your local search optimization? Have your webmaster create a KML location file to display geographic data for Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. Read more about how to create these files in Google’s KML Tutorial.
Now that your on-site optimization is more locally focused, we can move on to some offsite optimization and geo-focused branding.
2. Claim your listing on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
This is another one of those “if you do nothing else” strategies. Be sure that you claim your listing on the top three search engines’ local directories: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
To claim a Google Places listing, you will need to sign into your Google account (if you have Gmail, Adsense, Adwords, Analytics, etc. then you have one), or create a Google account if you don’t already have one.
You can then search for your listing on Google Maps and click on the link at the top right above the map that says Business owner?.
If you cannot find your listing, you may need to create one from scratch on Google Places.
Once you’ve created, claimed and verified your listing (Google will call you with an automated message and code or send you a postcard), you will want to fill out your profile with as many details as possible including photos and videos.
To find out if you have a business listing on Bing Local, simply search for your business in the Local Listings. If you cannot find a pre-existing listing, you can create one and enhance it through the Bing Business Portal.
As with Google, you will want to enhance your Bing listing with the most details possible as well as media to help boost the likelihood that it will rank higher than competitors.
To claim your Yahoo Local listing, you will to sign into your Yahoo account or create a Yahoo account if you don’t already have one. Then you will want to search for your listing on Yahoo Local. When you find it, you can click on the Enhance your listing link to add more details.
If you do not have a listing, you can create a basic or enhanced listing in the Local Listings Account Center. Enhanced listings are $9.95 per month and allow you to include up to 10 photos, promotion links, and a 3,000 character description of your business. These listings are more likely to attract clicks in search results!
3. Claim or setup your listing on top local search directories.
Want to build even more local references to your site? You can do so by submitting to additional local search directories. Here are some of the top ones and some basic statistics.
Domain authority is calculated by SEOmoz and indicates the likelihood that a website will rank well in search engines (the higher the number, the better the rankings). The number of incoming links shows the popularity of the domain, and the traffic data is from Compete showing US traffic estimates only.
- Yelp is one of the most popular local directories, this site has a domain authority of 93 with over 4 million links from 92,000+ domains. Yelp received 15.6 million unique visitors in May 2011. They also offer great
- Merchant Circle is another highly popular local directory with a domain authority of 83 and over 2.2 million links from 26,000+ domains. Merchant Circle received 6.6 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Yellow Pages, a well-known and trusted name in local since the phonebook days, has a domain authority of 92 and over 1.1 million links from 49,000+ domains. Yellow Pages received 25.3 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- WhitePages, also a recognized name since the phonebook era, has a domain authority of 84 with over 2.9 million links from 13,000+ domains. WhitePages received 16.3 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Superpages, which also feeds into White Pages, 411.com and other local directories, has a domain authority of 87 and over 14 million links from 40,000+ domains. Superpages received 14.3 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Yellowbook (not to be confused with above mentioned Yellow Pages, has a domain authority of 81 with over 5 million links from 11,000+ domains. Yellowbook received 6.1 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Citysearch, which partners with sites like Expedia and Hotwire, has a domain authority of 84 and over 9.6 million links from 55,000+ domains. Citysearch received 10.7 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- MapQuest was once known for just giving directions, but now also hosts local business profiles on their site with a domain authority of 96 and over 19.6 million links from 355,000+ domains. MapQuest received 40.7 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Insider Pages, recommendations for things that matter, has a domain authority of 73 with over 12.8 million links from 16,000+ domains. Insider Pages received 2.3 million unique visitors in May 2011.
- Local.com which offers local business, coupon, and event searches has a domain authority of 70 with over 23.6 million links from over 8,000 domains. Local.com received 15.1 million unique visitors in May 2011.
A more comprehensive list can be found on this post by HubSpot. Another trick to determine which are the best local directories is to look at competitors on Google Places and see which local directories they are receiving reviews from customers.
The bonus of claiming your listing on these and other local search directories is that you will be able to constantly update your information if it changes and respond to any reviews about your business when needed.
4. Target your Twitter campaign for a local audience.
Twitter, in some ways, is more powerful to a business than Facebook (although I would highly advise creating a Facebook page for your business as well). But I like Twitter because you don’t have to wait for people to follow you before you can interact with them. In most cases, you can start following and interacting with them first which will hopefully lead them to wanting to learn more about your business.
So how do you find people in your area who might be interested in your business? Here are some great places and ways to start.
Advanced Twitter Search
The beauty of the advanced Twitter search is that you can pinpoint people who tweet about any topic within a distance of 1 to 1,000 miles from a particular city or zip code. So if you are a dentist, and someone tweets “Is there a dentist that can perform __?” then you can chime right in!
Bing Twitter Maps
Want a more visual peek at who is tweeting about a particular topic in a region? Try out the Twitter Maps application with Bing.
Simply go to Bing Maps, and click on the Map Apps box in the bottom left sidebar. Scroll down and select Twitter Maps. Then you can use the search box to type in specific business names or keywords and see where tweets are happening using those terms.
The best part? You can use these directions to embed this map onto your website!
The Twitter Elite
Want to target the most influential Twitter users in a particular region? Twitter Grader has lists of the top 100 cities on Twitter. When you click on one, say Los Angeles, you will see the 50 most popular Twitter users in LA.
Are you looking for more cities or more users per city than the Twitter Elite lists provide? Then head over to Wefollow and choose from top cities or type in your city in the search box. You can see Twitter users in those regions based on most influential or simply most number of followers.
Follower Wonk allows you to get specific with your local Twitter search. You can search Twitter bios for particular keywords (such as gardening if you sell garden supplies) and, using the more search options link, you can narrow down the results by location.
5. Find your customers on Facebook.
For the longest time on Facebook, there were only two ways to promote your Facebook page on Facebook – through advertising or through your own personal profile to your personal connections.
But now, things have changed. You can use Facebook as your fan page and comment on other pages. This is huge! Obviously, you would not want to comment on a direct competitor’s website. Instead, what you want to do is comment on pages that your target local customers would also be fans of.
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, you could become a fan of local brands that sell bridal gowns and bridal jewelry and start commenting on their pages. As brides-to-be visit their favorite local designer’s fan page, they might see you and want to check you out as a potential photographer for their upcoming nuptials.
Another example would be an automotive parts store. You could become a fan of local auto dealers and start commenting on their pages. That way, when someone buys their brand new Civic after chatting with their auto salesman on the fan page, they might already have your store in mind for some aftermarket enhancements.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. So if you haven’t setup a Facebook fan page because you weren’t sure how to find friends, now is the time to let go of those fears and create your Facebook fan page.
And if you have a page that has been dormant, start using it to engage – you’ll be glad you did!
6. Get your business check-in ready on Foursquare.
If your business is a store, restaurant, salon, or other type of establishment that customers might be excited to tell their friends about, then make sure it is Foursquare ready by creating a free account, searching for your venue and claiming that venue.
From there, you can build loyalty to your establishment by offering specials for people who check-in. For example, you could say that new customers who check in to your spa get 15% off of spa treatment. You could even encourage people to tell their friends by offering a special discount if 10 or more people check during a specified time period.
What’s great about check-ins is that anyone following a user on Foursquare will be able to see that they are a customer of your business. Even better is when those same Foursquare users share their check-ins to their audience on Twitter or Facebook for additional exposure.
This tweet, for example, was sent to the users 500+ followers. When they click on the tweet, they get specifics about the location and even phone number of the business in question, and can even view more tweets about that location.
7. Be prepared to respond to your critics.
Although I already briefly mentioned this earlier in the local search directory setup, I thought I would further stress the importance of responding to your critics. It’s not pleasant to think about, but any online property from your local search listing to your Facebook fan page is open to public response – both good and bad.
Don’t be afraid of this. Look at it as the chance to defend your brand! If you think about it, a customer can leave your establishment and tell their friends they had a bad experience, and you may never know. But if they post their comments on your Facebook wall, you have the perfect platform to respond to them.
Everyone knows that businesses have good days and bad days. It’s the way you respond to your criticism that will count for your future fans, and may even help bring back that wayward customer that had an unfortunate experience.
Your Local Marketing Strategies
There you have it – some great local marketing strategies to get you going in local search and social optimization. Now it’s your turn – what other tips and strategies have you used for your local business with successful results? Share your tips in the comments!
[Image Credits: People Love Us on Yelp]